Starring-Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Carl Weathers
Scott’s Review #1,317
Reviewed November 24, 2022
Rocky II (1979) is a terrific sequel and entertaining sports film. It doesn’t recreate the wheel or challenge cinematic artistic freedom or expression or anything like that. But, it knows what it wants to achieve and gets there in fine fashion.
It’s a straight-ahead vehicle that capitalizes on the enormous critical and commercial success of Rocky (1976) and enthralls with a winning final climax- in the squared boxing circle naturally.
The film is a crowd-pleaser through and through and the powers that even let boorish actor Stallone, notoriously difficult, take the director’s reigns (yikes!).
The actor even writes the screenplay for the film.
Events begin immediately following the first Rocky film which is a wise decision. Cocky world champion Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) has defeated working-class Philadelphia boxer Rocky Balboa (Stallone) in the closest of battles with both men requiring medical attention.
Despite vowing not to engage in a rematch, Rocky’s Cinderella story has caught the national sports media’s attention, and he now has the opportunity to capitalize on his sudden fame. Creed arrogantly prods his newfound nemesis into getting back into the ring.
Plagued with financial problems and a pregnant wife Rocky is goaded out of retirement and back into the ring for the fight of his life.
Supporting players Talia Shire (Adrian), Burgess Meredith (Mickey), and Burt Young (Paulie) return to the fold which provides excellent continuity and familiarity, another key to Rocky II’s success.
Additionally, Shire, Meredith, and Young are such top-quality actors that they enhance Stallone’s performance.
Rocky is unquestionably the best role of Stallone’s long career. Never known for great acting chops, he won the lottery with this iconic role and does quite well with him on the second time out.
The character is impossible not to root for and the Italian Stallion’s charisma shines across the big screen. Who doesn’t like an underdog especially when all he cares about is the timid Adrian (another underdog)?
His ‘Yo, Adrian, I did it!’ is legendary.
I’ll never cease being enamored with Shire’s portrayal of Adrian as compared to her other iconic role of Connie Corleone in The Godfather films. Adrian and Connie are like night and day which is a big part of the fun of viewing them both.
Of course, the setup of Rocky II is contrived and the storyline dictated. We know the final thirty minutes or so will showcase the bloody rematch between Rocky and Creed and we the audience salivates thirstily as the fight approaches.
There exists some trivial plot about Adrian giving birth to their son (named Rocky Jr. obviously) and slipping into a coma only to be resurrected by determination and giving her blessing for Rocky to fight but we all know what’s coming.
Like clockwork, the final fight arrives! As the men slug it out through fifteen brutal, sweaty rounds, the editing is fantastic. The sequence feels like a retread because it sort of is but it still provides an enthralling and bombastic finale.
Fans will not be disappointed.
Sure, Rocky II suffers from a saccharine romance and a predictable ending but it’s also a feast for the eyes and the ultimate sports match-up.
Compared to Rocky (1976) the film is a letdown despite carefully keeping the Philadelphia underdog, blue-collar elements that made the original such a hit.
Subsequent sequels would parlay into nationalistic, patriotic nonsense using the Cold War as a prop but Rocky II (1979) remains all-American and robust in spirit and climax.